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The Silent War (book three of The Asteroid Wars) by Ben Bova

01/10/2008. Contributed by Rod MacDonald

Buy The Silent War in the USA - or Buy The Silent War in the UK

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audio CD. pub: Audio Renaissance/PanMacmillan. 13 hours. 10 CDs. Price: $44.95 (US), $62.95 (CAN) ISBN: 1-59397-504-X). read by: Amanda Karr, Christian Noble and cast.

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Here we go again on our journey to the asteroids with Ben Bova, ably assisted of course by the team of narrators from MacMillan Audio. This offering, 'The Silent War', will take you on an unabridged battle lasting 13 hours. However, what exactly is 'The Silent War'?

It can refer to many things, including the fact that in the vacuum of space nobody can hear you scream. Sound doesn't travel in a vacuum, as we all know from our school science classes, so witnessing a battle space must be a rather eerie experience. It can also refer to a battle which, despite being of significant importance to the future of humanity, takes place far out in space, away from the concerns of people on Earth. More sinister by far is the attempt by the Corporations engaged in the fight to keep their activities out of the news.

Ben Bova's references to alien life-forms in his 'Grand Tour' series are of secondary importance to the action of his human characters. While, as in the 'Jupiter' and 'Saturn' novels, the presence of extra-terrestrial life is of pivotal importance to the plot, it somehow doesn't merit the limelight status that the humans achieve in their soap opera activities. Suffice to say, an alien artefact is found in the Asteroid Belt and Martin Humphries wants to get his grubby hands on it.

Humphries must be the most detestable villain this side of the galaxy. Ben Bova has done well in creating this character which I imagine just grew worse and worse from its conception to reality. Even Adolf Hitler and Stalin were not totally bad in every respect but this Humphries chap has no redeeming qualities at all. Throughout the first two books in the series, 'The Precipice' and 'The Rock Rats', he has slithered his way from one Machiavellian deed to another. Human life means nothing to a man who would do anything to get his own way and on his quest for power an incalculable number of lives have been ruined and lost forever. Nobody likes Martin Humphries. We all want him dead!

Bova begins with Humphries investigating the alien artefact, accompanied by a dangerous psychopath of his own making. Will he get his comeuppance? Well, we're not told because the story slips back half a dozen years to a previous time in the history of the asteroid conflict. Dammit, Bova has done it again! Making sure we read right through to the end to find out what happens to Humphries, he's hooked us right from the beginning!

This is the best book in the series so far. In fact, it is probably one of Ben Bova's finest. In the audio book version from MacMillan, we are taken through the traumas and dilemmas with clarity and pace by good narrators. Going from one fractious moment to another, from tingling suspense to creeping fear, it doesn't let up all through the entire book. If you haven't tried an audio version and had been content to read, fair enough, but as an experiment you should try listening for a change. Some people say they fall asleep listening to audio books but I can guarantee you won't fall asleep listening to this one.

I would also like to suggest that 'The Asteroid War' books be made in into a television series. While a movie would be fun, there is no way that all this material could be successfully combined into a couple of hours or thereabouts. The story would be destroyed.

Anyway, the battle continues between Humphries Space Systems and Astro, headed by Pancho Lane. Lars Fuchs, the space pirate whose wife went over to Humphries to save his life, is still on the scene but he is now a cracked character, with hatred and revenge burning in his mind. Ben Bova shows us what happens when the seven deadly sins take over. Unfortunately for Humphries, he seems to have all seven at the same time.

You would think that a war between two major corporations would be enough but matters get a lot worse when the Yamagata Corporation stick their nose in. It is their intention to take over the whole caboodle and try to achieve this by having the other two Corporations fight to the death so they can pick up the pieces. It's a nasty business and not one for the faint-hearted. Someone's life means nothing when there is money and power at stake.

We are taken on this journey through the battle of the Corporations. Lasting six years, it has many casualties with a lot of blood spilt but we know Humphries is still there at the end of it because that's where the story began. Now, does Humphries finally get bumped off? Do we have the pleasure of seeing him end in a grisly way? I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to divulge that information. You will have to read or listen to the book to find out.

Rod MacDonald

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